Property price declines likened to GFC and 1980s crash

With property prices declining for the third consecutive month, comparisons are being to made to the lead-up to the big crash of 1989 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

Apartment building in inner Sydney suburb.
Unit values across the combined capitals are generally recording smaller falls relative to house values. (Image source:

Australian property is now in a decline “comparable to the onset of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008” according to the research director of property data analysts CoreLogic.

The national property price slide has continued, with the July fall of 1.3 per cent marking the third month in a row prices had gone backwards.

The pace of decline is also accelerating, following the previous month’s 0.6 per cent retreat.

After national dwelling values surged 28.6 per cent through the pandemic growth phase, values are now 2.0 per cent below April’s peak according to CoreLogic’s national Home Value Index.

CoreLogic Research Director, Tim Lawless, said housing market conditions are likely to worsen as interest rates surge higher through the remainder of the year.

“The rate of growth in housing values was slowing well before interest rates started to rise, however, it’s abundantly clear markets have weakened quite sharply since the first rate rise on 5 May,” he said.

“Although the housing market is only three months into a decline, the Home Value Index shows that the rate of decline is comparable with the onset of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008, and the sharp downswing of the early 1980s.

“In Sydney, where the downturn has been particularly accelerated, we are seeing the sharpest value falls in almost 40 years.

“Due to record high levels of debt, indebted households are more sensitive to higher interest rates, as well as the additional downside impact from very high inflation on balance sheets and sentiment.”

In 1989 property prices fell sharply in line with interest rates peaking at an eye-watering 19.39 per cent. Sydney led the charge with a 24 per cent crash. 

The exceptional capitals

Perth (+0.2 per cent), Adelaide (+0.4 per cent) and Darwin (+0.5 per cent) remained in positive growth through July, however most of these markets have recorded a sharp slowdown in the pace of capital gains since the first interest rate hike in May.

Overall, regional markets are still outperforming their capital city counterparts, but this month’s figures show major regional centres are not immune to falling home values.

Five of the eight capital cities recorded a month-on-month decline in July, led by Sydney and Melbourne where values fell 2.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively. Brisbane also edged into negative growth territory for the first time since August 2020, with values down 0.8 per cent, while Canberra (-1.1 per cent) and Hobart (-1.5 per cent) were also down over the month.

Firmer interest from investors should favour the unit market over houses.

- Tim Lawless, Research Director, CoreLogic

Regional markets have also weakened, with the combined regionals index recording the first monthly decline (-0.8 per cent) since August 2020.

Dwelling values were down across regional New South Wales (-1.1 per cent), regional Victoria (-0.7 per cent), regional Queensland (-0.7 per cent) and regional Tasmania (-0.6 per cent), while values continued to trend higher in regional SA (1.1 per cent) and regional WA (0.1 per cent)

Dwelling values across CoreLogic’s combined regionals index were up 41.1 per cent from the pandemic trough to the June peak, compared with a 25.5 per cent rise across the combined capitals index. 

“The stronger growth reflects a significant demographic shift towards commutable regional markets, which is likely to have some permanency as more workers take advantage of formalised hybrid employment arrangements,” Mr Lawless said.

Most of the major regional centres adjacent to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (including Geelong, Ballarat, Illawarra, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, the Southern Highlands & Shoalhaven, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast) recorded a decline in home values over the three months to July, marking the end of nearly two years of significant capital gains.

Unit values across the combined capitals are generally recording smaller falls relative to house values, down 1.0 per cent and 1.5 per cent in July respectively.

“This trend is most apparent across the three largest capitals as well as Canberra, where housing affordability challenges may be deflecting more demand towards the medium to high density sector,” Mr Lawless said.

“Additionally, firmer interest from investors should favour the unit market over houses where demand has historically been more concentrated.”

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